The Browser
Cecily Cecily

Writing Worth Reading

There Are No Significant Facts About Human Beings

Chance conversation with a biographer provokes a philosopher to wonder how well we can delineate ourselves — let alone other people. “I have no real insight into my motives or influences. I say that I have views and desires, but I have no way of saying whether they are really mine, rather than parroted. It’s immensely unlikely that I’ve ever had a remotely original thought. My genes and my preferences are bequests from unnameable donors” (1,200 words)

The Signalling Value Of Religious Beliefs

“Perhaps what is important is not whether religious beliefs are true, but that they are specific to that religion. That is, religious beliefs act as a ‘badge of identity’ for that religion that is difficult to fake. It would be easy for adherents to that religion to learn the weird and wonderful tenets of that religion, but difficult for outsiders. Thus beliefs could be the means of working out whether a person is safe to trust” (870 words)

What Grounds Paternal Obligations?

Should unwilling fathers be required to pay child support? “If one has a strongly intuitionistic approach, the biological model (where participation in a process of sexual intercourse resulting in pregnancy and childbirth is sufficient for obligation) is probably the best option. While it might lack in philosophical grounding, there are relatively few counterintuitive implications (at least that I can think of)” (1,270 words)

Why Are We Not Much Better At Parenting?

“We’ve come a long way, as a species. We’re better at many things than we ever were before – not just slightly better, but unimaginably, ridiculously better. We’re better at transporting people and objects, we’re better at killing, we’re better at preventing infectious diseases, we’re better at industrial production. But in some areas, we haven’t made such dramatic improvements. And one of those areas is parenting” (1,162 words)

The Value Of Life And The Badness Of Death

Notes on a discussion between Jeff McMahan of Rutgers and John Broome of Oxford. Not about badness of death in general, but badness of any particular death. You might equate the badness of a given death to the quantity and quality of life it cuts short. But that would make the death of an embryo worse than that of an child, which feels wrong

Pedophilia, Preemptive Imprisonment, And The Ethics of Predisposition

“Why does it matter for our moral appraisal of pedophiles whether pedophilia is innate or acquired? Is it wrong to imprison someone for a terrible crime not yet committed? Is it problematic to condemn individuals for acting upon these (and other harmful) desires if it can be shown that poor impulse control is genetically predisposed?”

Enlightened Surveillance

Cameras everywhere. We are moving towards a surveillance society. But is that all bad? Not necessarily. There are many ways in which society could benefit from inhabiting a panopticon. “We should at least consider the possibility that people who know that their words and deeds are recorded would behave in more pro-social and honest ways”

Handling Infidelity In The Nursing Home

Two patients with dementia seem to enjoy keeping company and cuddling. But one of them has a wife on the outside, who disapproves. “What to make of romances that come about due to dementia. Are they authentic? How do they relate to the interests expressed earlier in life?”

To Kill Or To Violate?

A chronic anorexic endangers her life by not eating. She has a history of mental illness, alcohol and substance abuse. Two options remain: Hospitalisation and force-feeding, or death. She refuses treatment. Should she be coerced?

Can You Be Gay By Choice?

“The gay-rights activist is making a big mistake to put all his chips in the basket about ‘gay is not a choice.’ It’s like creationists who peg their belief in God on the falsity of evolution.” Short, thought-provoking piece

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